M. Continuo

Ex-EU economic chief Olli Rehn to run for Finnish parliament

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Olli Rehn, the European Union's former top economic official, announced on Friday that he will be a candidate in Finland's April parliamentary election, which his Centre party is expected to win.

Rehn, who oversaw the EU's austerity policy during the euro zone debt crisis and is now a member of the European Parliament, explained his decision in an interview with Helsingin Sanomat newspaper.

"Finland's economic situation is much more difficult than a year ago," he said.

The opposition Centre party, a member of Europe's ALDE liberal group, leads opinion polls with support of about 25 percent.

The ruling National Coalition and Social Democrat parties trail neck-and-neck in polls along with eurosceptic party The Finns, each with support of about 14-17 percent.

According to forecasts, the Finnish economy that flat-lined last year will not yet return to its 2008 levels due to the slowdown in the euro zone and Russia, as well as problems in the mobile phone and paper industries.

(Reporting By Jussi Rosendahl; Editing by Kay Johnson)